[Article updated February 15 to reflect the evolving situation.]
France's vaccine pass came into effect on January 25, after being approved by Parliament and judged to be constitutional by the Conseil constitutionnel.
Its aim is to reinforce measures already in place to combat the spread of Covid and to encourage people who have not already done so to get vaccinated. It effectively bans unvaccinated people from venues such as cafes and restaurants where previously they could show a recent negative Covid test to enter.
French Health Minister Olivier Véran said in December: “The vaccine pass is a disguised form of compulsory vaccination.”
What is a vaccine pass?
Vaccine passes have replaced the health pass (pass sanitaire) for most situations and are required for entry into the majority of the public spaces where health passes were previously required.
This includes restaurants, cafés, bars, museums, cinemas, theatres, conferences, gyms and theme parks. It also applies to long-distance travel, such as TGVs and domestic flights but with some exceptions (see below).
The Conseil constitutionnel ruled that it was unconstitutional to require vaccine passes – or health passes – for entry into political meetings.
Anyone who is fully vaccinated can access a vaccine pass. If they received their second vaccine dose over four months ago, they must have also received a booster dose in order to retain a valid pass.
This deadline was previously seven months, but it has now been shortened.
People become eligible for their booster dose three months after their second dose so this new time frame means that they only have one month in which to receive their additional vaccination.
You can access a vaccine pass if you have recently had Covid, and have a certificate of recovery from the last 11 days to four months. If you have also had two vaccinations as well as one infection, your vaccine pass will remain valid indefinitely. However, if you have had no vaccinations but had Covid once, the pass will only last for the four months.
People who have had one vaccine dose and two previous Covid infections can also retain their pass permanently.
The principal difference between vaccine passes and health passes is that a negative Covid test result from the last 24 hours is no longer accepted for entry into venues.
Who is concerned by the new law?
Everyone aged 16 and over will be asked to show a vaccine pass at included venues.
Teenagers aged 12 to 15 can continue to use a health pass, meaning that they may still take a Covid test in order to gain access to a restaurant, café or museum.
Children under 12 are not required to show any type of pass.
Vaccine pass rules apply to residents and visitors alike.
How can I access a vaccine pass?
If your vaccination records or certificate of recovery from Covid are uploaded to the TousAntiCovid health pass app, you do not need to do anything to obtain a vaccine pass.
Printed certificates are also valid. Vaccination records can be accessed by logging into your Ameli account via FranceConnect and previous positive test results which can be used as certificates of recovery if they are between 11 days and six months old can be found on the SI-DEP platform.
While TousAntiCovid will continue to work in the same way, the certificate scanning app used by venue staff, TousAntiCovid Verif, has been updated to fit the new rules.
The app will also be better equipped to detect potentially fake passes.
Venue staff need only update their apps to apply the changes. If they forget to do so, the update will begin automatically after a certain amount of time, as long as the device is connected to the internet.
Certain larger venues, such as stadiums, will normally be subject to vaccine pass requirements but this will depend on the characteristics of the building or setting and the Covid-related context.
Where are vaccine passes not necessary?
Vaccine passes are required for long-distance transport services such as TGV trains and domestic flights, but there are some exceptions.
Unvaccinated people who must travel for essential family or health-related reasons may board these transports if they can present a negative test result.
The test requirement may be waived in “an emergency.”
People can continue using health passes for entry into medical and care settings. Neither vaccine passes nor health passes are needed for emergency medical treatment.
Those who have received their first vaccination but who have not received all required doses can obtain a temporary vaccine pass “for the time it takes for them to finish their vaccination schedule.”
Do venue staff have to use a vaccine pass?
Staff working in the sectors concerned by vaccine pass requirements need to be able to present their pass. Partial exemptions will be available for those who have begun but not completed their vaccination schedule.
Can venue staff carry out identity checks?
The managers of venues where vaccine passes are required are allowed to ask to see identity documents “if there are serious reasons to believe that the document presented does not belong to the person presenting it.”
The identity document should contain a photograph. Staff are not allowed to keep or reuse the information contained within.
Venues which fail to check vaccine passes will immediately be subject to a €1,000 fine.
What penalties are in place?
People found to be using someone else’s vaccine pass will face a €1,000 fine from their first offence. The current penalty is €135.
Those discovered using a fake pass will risk five years in prison and a €75,000 fine.
These individuals will be able to reduce their penalty if they agree to get vaccinated after having committed vaccine pass fraud.
Businesses which fail to comply with the current remote working rules will also be fined €500 per employee, up to a maximum of €50,000.
Might I be asked for a vaccine pass and a test result?
Some venues or events may be able to ask for both a vaccine pass and a negative test result if the health situation requires it.
This will only be enforced “for activities which, by their nature, cannot guarantee the effective application of the infection control measures.”
This could include night clubs or live music events.
Protests take place across France
Following the Conseil constitutionnel’s favourable ruling on the government’s vaccine pass bill, nearly 40,000 people took part in protests across the country on Saturday (January 22) according to interior ministry figures.
There were 5,200 protesters in Paris, carrying signs reading “Liberté”, “Vérité” (Truth) or “Non à l’Apartheid” (No to Apartheid).
Fewer people participated in the protest that the weekend prior, when 54,000 people had taken part.